A few weeks ago, a friend who has worked in a midsize inspection firm for a while told me “there is a rule in the industry: you won’t keep all your clients forever — you will lose them one by one”.
Fortunately, my first client still works with me after 5 1/2 years. However, I have observed this trend with most of the clients who decided to use our inspection services — particularly those purchasing upwards of 5 million USD a year in a single product family.
Volume of inspections: the natural cycle
At the beginning, there is a lot of work for two reasons:
- Some suppliers are not reliable, so we check their products during production as well as before shipment;
- Some problems are found, so there are re-inspections.
After one or two years, though, the worst manufacturers have been replaced by new ones, and all suppliers understand what is expected of them. There is less need for QC inspections. The smallest shipments aren’t even checked any more.
Finally, the importer is looking for ways to save money. The number of quality problems has gone way down, so is there still a need for a high QC budget? The buyers of cheap products usually hire their own staff.
The buyers of high-quality products, who want to work with reliable and proven processes, either send someone from their head office to manage product quality full-time… or keep working with a third-party QC agency.
A better solution for buyers with a high quality standard
As I wrote in this past article, it is fundamental to distinguish several categories of suppliers, and to treat them differently.
First, it is necessary to collect information about each supplier. If there is no history of inspection results, a classic “one inspection per shipment” policy is necessary.
Very quickly, it is possible to see which suppliers are safe, and to check their products less frequently. This is quick way of saving money.
Over time, the average quality of the suppliers goes up. The worst (“red listed”) suppliers are followed closely:
- Setting up a product specification checklist, translating it, and explaining it to the factory;
- Accompanying the factory technicians during pre-production sampling, and during production launch;
- Checking every sensitive production step (or even stationing an inspector on site for several weeks).
This “smart quality assurance” policy can be 30% cheaper than a classic inspection policy after 6 months, and at the same time reduce quality risks.
Anybody has similar experiences?